Ichikawa. Part 2

Fitness |

I learned ukemi 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 6 weeks, culminating in a test where I grabbed the belt of a teammate situated on all fours, and hurled myself over his back, 5 times each on my left and right sides. The purpose of this training was to enable me to fall with velocity without injuring myself. The reality was that I was so black and blue from the six weeks of practice that the real test was keeping silent every time my bruised and delicate frame slapped the hard tatami mats. Finally deemed worthy by the powers that be, I was allowed to join the middle segment of the class to learn the spectacular throws for which judo is known.

After the warm-up, the class would form into 2 lines, one of mudansha (non-black belt ranks, all of whom wore white) and yudansha (black belts). These 2 lines would face each other and rotate as we began with uchikomi, or fit-ins, where students drill the initial movement of the throw to learn the proper entry and balance. Next, we would progress into actual throws with no resistance, then finally graduate into randori, or free sparring.

I’ll never forget my first day on the mat with the team. The coaches tried to teach me a few techniques that would serve me well with my long legs and high center of gravity; but I was more concerned with showing everyone how strong I was, as if it was a make-up equalizer for the skill that I lacked. In my effort to impress everyone, what could have been crisp throws were a series of over-muscled jerks and thuds against a very tolerant and non-resistant partner.

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